Rory Carroll. Jon Lee Anderson. Richard Lapper. The big guns.

Courtesy of The Frontline Club.

These are serious people, and it’s a good discussion, but one thing that struck me as badly misguided is the treatment of Barrio Adentro.

The consensus around the table is that Barrio Adentro was a good and noble venture let down by fucked up implementation. Rhetorical homage to Barrio Adentro seems to operate here as the price of entry into the discussion: the dues you have to pay to establish your bona fides as a non-ranting-reactionary-nutter with the standing to be taken seriously as you hold forth on Venezuela.

Well, pardon my French but: bull-fucking-shit.

Barrio Adentro is a program whereby Venezuela pays for $4 worth of medical services with a $100 bill. That is, out of every $100 Venezuela sends the Castro Bros., perhaps $4 reaches the pockets of the actual doctors providing the medical care ostensibly being bought. A cool 96% effective (not marginal) tax rate.

Somehow, the Castros get away with pressing tens of thousands of their people into indentured servitude in a scheme to bankroll the hemisphere’s final remaining outright dictatorship. That this, this got picked out as the program that all right-thinking people must humbly defer to and declare good and worthy and noble is a tiny tragedy in its own right.

No, Barrio Adentro is not ok. However much of a propaganda coup it may have been – and, y’know, credit where credit is due – Barrio Adentro amounts to the wholesale expropriation of the labour power of a whole generation of Cuban professionals: a state sponsored human trafficking ring.

Listen, I fully understand the need to find symbolic markers distance yourself from the farther fringes of anti-chavista extremism. But it’s deeply regrettable that you’ve chosen Barrio Adentro as the place to do that.

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